Arrow McLaren SP knew what it was getting when it signed 2018 Indy Lights champion Pato O’Ward to drive the No. 7 Chevy. The rapid Mexican demonstrated immense potential in a handful of IndyCar events last year with Carlin Racing, and with his penchant for making bold passes, it was easy for Sam Schmidt, Ric Peterson, and new partners McLaren Racing to imagine more of the same being unleashed in 2020.
It’s fair to say O’Ward’s rookie teammate, 2019 Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew, was more of a blank page waiting to be filled with evidence of similar promise. Fresh off making the Firestone Fast Six in his first attempt, the lanky kid from Florida is starting to fill the AMSP book with the kind of entries they want to see.
After turning a poor qualifying run of 20th into a ninth-place finish on his IndyCar debut at the punishing Texas Motor Speedway oval, Askew vaulted forward to capture fifth on the GMR Grand Prix starting grid and ranked second among the Chevy-powered drivers. O’Ward wasn’t as fortunate, and will start the 80-lap race in 13th.
“Today was more than we could have asked for, honestly,” Askew said. “The goal was to move on from Round One of qualifying, but once I felt the car was capable of competing in the Firestone Fast Six, it was game on. The guys at Arrow McLaren SP did a really good job of making the right changes between practice and qualifying. It comes down to that and being able to put down your theoretical best lap together by not making mistakes. Everyone sees how close it is out there in lap times.”
The 23-year-old isn’t the type to let a strong qualifying performance act as a distraction to the more important job that starts at 12 p.m. on Saturday. Starting fifth in another indicator AMSP made the right choice, but holding the position – or improving it, if possible – is how he can drive the message home.
“I felt really good out there, and these are the days I love about racing, when you feel connected with the car and you don’t have to think about it,” he added. “It just all comes together naturally.”